Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for November 2010

You Can’t Take A Guess? And Don’t Call Me Shirley

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Needless to say, I was totally bummed to hear that Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen passed away over the U.S. holiday weekend.

I was a big fan of Nielsen’s stretching all the way back to the original “Airplane.”  Man, that movie still cracks me up, and I was a wee lad when it first came out and probably had no business watching it at that young ripe age.

But I did — on videotape, no less.

For those of you who don’t know what a VCR videotape is, it’s kind of like the audio version of an 8-track tape, except it didn’t switch scenes in the middle of the tape like the 8-track did for music.

And for those of you who don’t know what a hospital is, it’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now!

Ah, what the kids these days missed out on!

Mr. Nielsen, we salute you and hope you Rest In Peace, preferably with that ubiquitous flatulation machine you liked traveling with during your last years.

And don’t call me Shirley.

Meanwhile, back at the IBM holiday shopping bean counting ranch, the data wizards at IBM Coremetrics have an update from “Cyber Monday.”

As of 12:00 AM PST last night, here’s what they’re seeing in terms of trends and points of comparison:

Cyber Monday 2010 Compared to Black Friday 2010

  • Consumer Spending Increases: Online sales were up 31.1 percent, with consumers pushing the average order value (AOV) up from $190.80 to $194.89 for an increase of 2.1 percent.
  • Luxury Goods Continue Comeback: Jewelry retailers reported a significant jump of 60.3 percent in sales.
  • Social Shopping: The growing trend of consumers using their networks on social sites for information about deals and inventory levels continued on Cyber Monday. While the percentage of visitors arriving from social network sites is fairly small relative to all online visitors — nearly 1 percent — it is gaining momentum, with Facebook dominating the space.
  • Mobile Shopping: Consumers continue to use mobile as a shopping tool. On Cyber Monday, 3.9 percent of people visited a retailer’s site using a mobile device.

Cyber Monday 2010 Compared to Cyber Monday 2009 (year/year):

  • Consumer Spending Increases: Online sales were up 19.4 percent, with consumers pushing the average order value (AOV) up from $180.03 to $194.89 for an increase of 8.3 percent.
  • Luxury Goods Report Big Gains: Affluent shoppers opened their wallets wide, driving sales of luxury goods up 24.3 percent over 2009.
  • Shopping Peaks at 9:00 am PST/Noon EST: Consumers flocked online, with shopping momentum hitting its peak at 9:00 am PST/noon EST. But consumer shopping maintained stronger momentum throughout the day than on Cyber Monday 2009.

“Cyber Monday came in as the biggest shopping day of the year so far,” said John Squire, chief strategy officer, IBM Coremetrics.

“Consumers this year appear much more willing to open their wallets and are turning to online stores for the convenience of shopping wherever and whenever they like,” continued Squire, “but also as their primary source of information about products and inventory levels. Retailers have done an exceptional job across the board of appealing to consumers with highly personalized promotions and a slew of free shipping promotions.”

According to an analytics-based forecast from IBM’s Global Business Services division, in-store sales in the consumer electronics and appliances sector are expected to increase 3.5 percent this year compared to last, with consumers spending a larger-than-usual share in November.

U.S. consumers have been increasing their savings relative to disposable income, from 2 percent in 2007 to nearly 6 percent today, leading to strong pent-up demand this holiday season for consumer electronics and appliances, both of which are typically seen as necessities in the present-day economy.

So, for those of you who were asking why the American consumer was spending more this holiday season, this should help at least partly explain it.

And with that, I’ll leave you with this last small back and forth from “Airplane” (Nielsen’s character was Rumack):

Rumack: “Captain, how soon can you land?
Captain Oveur: I can’t tell.
Rumack: You can tell me. I’m a doctor.
Captain Oveur: No. I mean I’m just not sure.
Rumack: Well, can’t you take a guess?
Captain Oveur: Well, not for another two hours.
Rumack: You can’t take a guess for another two hours?

Written by turbotodd

November 30, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Black Friday: Social And Upwardly Mobile

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It’s Cyber Monday.

Bosses everywhere, go ahead and hang it up.  Simply consider Cyber Monday an extension of the long holiday weekend.

Your employees are going to be plenty busy today, but not for work: There are deals to be had, submit buttons to be struck, credit card security codes to be discovered, shopping carts to be filled!!

And if early results in for Black Friday are any indication, a glorious Cyber Monday it could be.

IBM Coremetrics’ Third Annual Black Friday Benchmark Report was issued over the weekend, an analysis of the online retail sector during this important holiday shopping period.

Here’s what was witnessed from Friday’s e-shopping tidings:

  • Consumer Spending Increases: Online sales were up a healthy 15.9 percent, with consumers pushing the average order value up from $170.19 to $190.80 (an increase of 12 percent)
  • Luxury Goods Make a Comeback: Jewelry retailers reported a 17.6 percent increase in sales. These affluent shoppers appear very willing to open their wallets.
  • Surgical Shopping: Consumers know what they want and where to get it. People are viewing 18.0 percent fewer products on sites than they did last year, suggesting that they are shopping with a specific item in mind and quickly moving on.
  • Social Shopping: Consumers appear increasingly savvy about their favorite brands’ social presence, and are turning to their networks on social sites for information about deals and inventory levels. While the percentage of visitors arriving from social network sites is fairly small relative to all online visitors — nearly 1 percent — it is gaining momentum, with Facebook dominating the space.
  • Mobile Shopping: On Black Friday, 5.6 percent of people logged onto a retailer’s site using a mobile device, a jump of 26.7 percent compared to the prior Friday.

John Squite, chief strategy officer for IBM Coremetrics, had this to say about this year’s results:

“On Black Friday, consumers came, they clicked and they shopped their way across the Internet, and this time, they weren’t just looking for bargains. Consequently, we’re watching online retail, and increasingly social media and mobile, become the growth engines for retailers everywhere as consumers embrace online shopping not only for its ease and convenience, but as a primary means of researching goods and services.”

In related news, Comscore announced its own holiday e-commerce spending numbers: U.S. retail e-commerce spending for the first 26 days of the November – December 2010 holiday season: $11.64 billion has been spent online, a 13-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year.

Black Friday saw $648 million in online sales, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2010 and representing a 9-percent increase versus Black Friday 2009.

Thanksgiving Day (November 26), traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, achieved a strong 28-percent increase to $407 million.

Amazon continued its juggernaut performance, with a net positive 25 percent year-over-year increase in unique visitors on Black Friday (compared to 9 percent at Target, 1 percent at Best Buy, and a negative 1 percent at Wal-Mart).

My two cents on this year’s Black Friday: The digital mobile and social nexus is far from reaching its apogee — the mobilly-empowered shopper is a new species, one unafraid to walk into the store with information and resources at their fingertips, from the Web, and their friends and family, to inform their purchases: before, during, and even after their purchases.

Smart retailers, rather than discourage price-conscious mobile shoppers, should turn lemons into lemonade, offering more price-matching and e-couponing that draws such mobile shoppers into their stores in droves.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s early Monday morning and I’ve got some holiday shopping to do.

Written by turbotodd

November 29, 2010 at 2:49 pm

IBM Industry Summit: The Podcast Recap

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Though my partner-in-crime Scott Laningham wasn’t able to join me live and in person during my recent trip to Barcelona, he was certainly there in spirit, and he was also gracious enough to join me for a recap discussion earlier this week for developerWorks.

In the 13-minute recap, Scott and I walked through some highlights of the trip and the first-ever IBM Industry Summit — and even sneaked in a few holiday shopping tidbits to boot.

Enjoy our short walk down IBM Industry Summit memory lane, and for those of you in the U.S., I hope you enjoy a restful and thankful long holiday weekend.

You can find the podcast here.

Written by turbotodd

November 25, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Shop ‘Til You Drop

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Well, holiday season e-shoppers, it’s about that time of year.

Uncle Santa Dot Com is preparing his workshop for the coming holiday cyber home invasion, and word on the sled is that folks aren’t even going to bother waiting until Black Friday this year.

No, the e-shopping madness is going to kick into full gear Thanksgiving day this year.

To heck with the fam, to heck with the football…to get a head start on all things holiday shopping goodness, this year, to get ahead of the maddening crowds, you’re going to have to put aside the cranberry and run like crazy through those virtual doors.

But let’s take a step back and see what else they’re saying about the coming holiday shopping season, online and off.

Emarketer released their recent holiday online sales projections, estimating they would reach $38.5B (excluding travel) in 2010, which is up 14.3% from $33.7B last year.

The even better news here is that should this estimate prove out, it would be the second straight year of double-digit growth after online sales plunged 7.9% during the Great Recession Grinch’s 2008 holiday season.

holiday season sales will reach $38.5 billion (excluding travel) in 2010, up 14.3% over 2009. This will be the second straight year of double-digit growth after online sales plunged 7.9% during the 2008 holiday season.

Me, I’ve been doing a little pre-Thanksgiving screen shot shopping.  Here’s a few of the wares I sampled:

Best Buy: Offering free shipping for "hundreds of thousands of items."








For Amazon.Com, Black Friday is now an everyday affair.  A quick glance at their “Black Friday” page delivered the following message:

Amazon Black Friday Deals: "You shouldn't have to stand in a long line to get a great deal."









I would have to agree. I hate standing in any kind of line, no matter what’s in store on the other side.

Of course, at IBM customer Wal-Mart, that may not be an option, and their Website clearly gives advanced warning:

Wal-Mart: Friday @ 5 A.M, "Our Biggest Event of the Year"







And then there’s our new favorite click and mortar retailer, Apple, which is also giving off some advanced signals on coming deals:

Apple: "Wrap it up this Friday" with a one-day shopping event at Apple.com









The graphic explains that this Friday “You’ll find dozens of great iPad, iPod, and Mac gifts for everyone on your list.”

Will I find a new 11″ MacBook Air under my pillow?  Will I, huh, Santa, will I???”

Of course, at this time of year, the hardest part is often getting creative and trying to figure out not only what the best deals are, but what to buy and for whom.

Don’t worry, The New York Times has your back with its “2010 Holiday Gift Guide.”

For the geek in you (or your family), CNET’s got its own gift guide. I can attest after thumbing through it quickly that they make some solid (and cost effective) recommendations.

Ultimately, though, you know you’re just going to have to get out there on that computer, brave the maddening site traffic increases, and elbow your way into the e-shopping realm of Black Friday and beyond like anybody else.

I wish you a rock steady Internet connection and many hearty “Submit” buttons.

Written by turbotodd

November 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Posted in holiday shopping

Superfast Analytics

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This week flew by.

As pretty much has this whole year.  November 19th, you say?

Speaking of speed, the Supercomputing 2010 conference has been going on down in the great city of New Orleans this week.

At the event, IBM earlier today unveiled details behind a new storage architecture design that will convert terabytes of pure information into actionable insights twice as fast as was previously possible.

This new capability is ideally suited for cloud computing apps and data-intensive workloads like digital media, data mining, financial analytics, and the new architecture is expected to shave hours off of complex computations without requiring heavy infrastructure investment.

Created at IBM Research Lab in Almaden, this new General Parallel File System-Shared Nothing Cluster (GPFS-SNC) architecture is designed to provide higher availability through advanced clustering technologies, dynamic file system management and advanced data replication techniques.

By “sharing nothing,” new levels of availability, performance and scaling are achievable. GPFS-SNC is a distributed computing architecture in which each node is self-sufficient; tasks are then divided up between these independent computers and no one waits on the other.

IBM’s current GPFS technology offering is the core technology for IBM’s High Performance Computing Systems, IBM’s Information Archive, IBM Scale-Out NAS (SONAS), and the IBM Smart Business Compute Cloud.

These research lab innovations enable future expansion of those offerings to further tackle tough big data problems.

As an example of how such a capability might be used in the “real” world, large financial institutions run complex algorithms to analyze risk based on petabytes of data.

With billions of files spread across multiple computing platforms and stored across the world, these mission-critical calculations require significant IT resource and cost because of their complexity.

Using this GPFS-SNC design, running this complex analytics workload could become much more efficient, as the design provides a common file system and namespace across disparate computing platforms, streamlining the process and reducing disk space.

You can learn more about the basic GPFS capability here.

Written by turbotodd

November 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Up In The Air

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I made it back safely from the IBM Industry Summit (which I’m still digesting), but just barely.

No sooner than the whole “don’t touch my junk” TSA screening methods episode started playing out across the Internet waves did I have my own travel episode — only I was still in the air when mine happened.

We were about 90 minutes out of Barcelona heading, I would assume, west towards the Atlantic Ocean, when our captain came on the loudspeaker and announced briefly that we had an unruly passenger on board, and that we were going to be forced to make an unscheduled landing.

In Madrid.

Now, I didn’t major in geography, but I knew that Madrid was back the other direction (east), and I also knew our Boeing 767 was also probably still pretty loaded with fuel.  Wait a minute: It’s not a good idea to land big planes with lots of fuel still on board!

But, the American Airlines captain landed the plane heavy, and beautifully, I might add.

It wasn’t long before we displaced the unruly passenger, a woman who apparently was on medication and emotionally troubled, but who also made the fatal mistake of threatening one of the flight attendants.

I thought they should have just locked her in a bathroom and let her think about her misdeeds all the way to New York, but hey, the captain was in charge, not me.  And the American flight crew, from the cockpit all the way to the back of the plane, did a great job handling an entirely uncomfortable situation.

But the point was, we were already up in the air.

So, good luck with the whole screening thing, but for some folks, there’s clearly a lot more needing to be screened than their junk.  Psychotherapy scanners, anyone?

Fortunately, that Barcelona trip should be my last one for 2010, and I’m looking forward to having my feet on terra firma for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, if you’re wondering what the guv’ment does with all those scanned images — they’re not supposed to do anything with them, that’s kind of the point — well, Gizmodo has a few pics to share with you.

Apparently, they unearthed some 35K images from a Florida Federal courthouse scanner used to screen visitors to the courtroom.

The video in their post shows some 100 images saved by the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems that were obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request.  The folks look like naked blobs from Ghostbusters.

To which I ask, can that evidence be used against the marshals in a court of law? And will said marshals, in turn, have to undergo an overtly physical screening when they enter the courtroom?

I don’t know about you, but video conferencing and LotusLive e-meeting software are sounding better and better every day!

Written by turbotodd

November 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Posted in business travel, lotus

IBM Industry Summit: Smarter City Operations Center With Mike Kehoe

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I did some more roaming around the IBM Industry Summit Expo this past Thursday afternoon just as the action there started to wind down, and I seguewayed from trying to better understand smarter video analytics to that of smarter city operations.

If you’ve seen the IBM TV commercials, you’ve seen our experts talk about the opportunities to make cities smarter around the world.

Well, IBM Smarter City expert, Mike Kehoe, provides a 5-minute video helicopter ride in the video below over what a typical smarter cities operation might look like.

…Oh yeah, and for the five minutes I interviewed Mike, he made me the honorary mayor of Barcelona!

Check out Mike’s excellent flyover below:

Written by turbotodd

November 16, 2010 at 6:06 pm

IBM Industry Summit: Smarter Analytics — From Insights To Outcomes

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IBM Business Analytics and Optimization global leader, Fred Balboni, walks the IBM Industry Summit audience through the new IBM global analytics study.

I mentioned in an earlier post from here at the IBM Industry Summit in Barcelona, Spain, that there are a number of key “memes” emerging.

One that emerged loud and clear yesterday was the opportunity to channel new business insights into concrete business outcomes, and the presentation on the productive use of analytics by Fred Balboni, global leader with IBM’s Business Analytics and Optimization practice, painted a very clear picture of this trend.

Balboni even shared some data of his own, results from “The New Path to Value,” a new study conducted in collaboration with MIT Sloan Management Review and IBM.

This worldwide survey of nearly 3,000 respondents helped IBM, and now the world, better understand how companies are using analytics in their businesses to provide valuable insight.

For example, the study discovered that those organizations which lead in using analytics outperform those who don’t some 3X. Top performers are 5.4X more likely than the average organization to use an analytical approach to business decision-making than those using “intuition.”

Here’s a not-gut-hunch for you: It’s organizational — not data or financial concerns — that are holding back adoption, Balboni informed us. He also explained that it’s not just about having data — organizations want to see insights more clearly and then act on them.

That means moving from simple visualization of data to adopting scenarios and simulations to understand the practical application of analytics to business processes.

The next key finding was that analytic use propagates across functions in a predictable pattern, so start with areas of your business where practical application will be self-evident.

And finally, as adoption spreads, there will be a growing demand for a greater variety of skills and deeper expertise.  Makes sense.  The deeper insights you can gain, the more need you’ll have for more specialized analytical and business skills.  So, like the Boy Scouts, be prepared!

Balboni continued and pointed out how analytics programs can create value for organizations.

One, through infrastructure productivity (taking out costs and improving efficiencies).

Two, through business productivity (improving business control and the bottom online).

And three, helping a return to growth (creating new value for the business).

And finally, as with most every session at the IBM Industry Forum, Balboni provided five recommendations on how organizations can start down the path to this new value and operationalizing their own analytics:

  1. Focus on the biggest and highest value opportunities (Something the business really values.)
  2. Start with the questions that the business wants to ask. Within each opportunity, start with questions, not data.
  3. Embed insights to drive actions and deliver value. Embed analytics practically into processes.
  4. Keep existing capabilities while adding new ones (don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater). Add new functionality/insight to your business.
  5. Use an information agenda to plan for the future. This is a roadmap as to how your organization is going to adopt analytics and use it to enhance your business.

You can learn more about the IBM Global New Intelligent Enterprise study on analytics here.

Written by turbotodd

November 11, 2010 at 1:46 pm

IBM Industry Summit: John Kao On Getting Innovation Done

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If you’ve never had the opportunity to see John Kao speak in the flesh, then you’ve probably never heard a greater champion of innovation (and improvisation as one means to that end…Kao was once a student of Frank Zappa, and a longtime pianist).

Innovation expert John Kao speaks about innovation disruption at the 2010 IBM Industry Summit in Barcelona, Spain.

I first saw Kao speak about his book, Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, the ideas from which helped lead to IBM’s own massive internal jam that helped we IBMers reinvent T.J. Watson’s core business values for the 21st century.

Kao keynoted the morning session today and explained he went out to Google the word “innovation” earlier today, and there were over 92M results! His point was that innovation continues to be important, but the word is used so often, it becomes a meaningless term.

Kao asserted in his talk that we need to restore meaning to the word, to bring “innovation to innovation,” and that his life’s work has been dedicated to understanding it as both a science and discipline.

With a little audience Q&A, Kao discovered that though 98% of the Industry Forum audience in attendance asserted that innovation was key to their business success, only about 5% of the hands went up when he asked how many had a system for innovation.

He then observed why the IBM smarter planet agenda was so compelling to him, because, he said, “it’s putting a map of innovation on top of the whole world.”

Kao used that as an elegant launching point for providing his own five point perspectives on innovation:

Definition, Disruption, Dissemination, Design, Digital

By definition, Kao explained that we have to be specific about what we mean, that creativity and innovation, for example, are not the same thing.

Creativity is enabling the human ability to be able to generate new ideas, and innovation is creativity applied to a specific purpose to realize value. Innovation is the muscle that brings creativity towards some intended end.

He then explained point number two, disruption, of which is there is no current shortage. Kao made reference to the “ghost dance” of native Americans, driven to their deaths after they denied they denied the disruption being brought about by the “white man.” A very sophisticated form of denial, that dance, but the buffalo outfits did little to stop the bullets.

Another example of disruption: Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who went to work for then candidate Barack Obama and social media-fied his campaign, leaving the top down, command-and-control Clinton campaign babbling in its social media fallout.

Disruption can also mean great opportunity, as Bilbao, Spain, demonstrated with its Frank Gehry-designed museum now drawing 1M tourists a year to the Basque country.

Next up, dissemination: How do we innovate from a systems perspective? After WWII, the US was the main innovation game in town, but we’ve since seen, particularly with globalization, the advent of innovation centers sprouting up around the globe.

Kao walked the audience through a series of airport pictures of advertisements for those centers: Qatar, Singapore, Shanghai…the list went on and on.

That expansion enables smart managers to now pick from a global buffet of innovation offerings, and with the innovation web including a dog’s breakfast menu of disciplines to choose from.

Call it, Kao said, “innovation arbitrage.”

Next up, the importance of innovation, another lens for how innovation needs to be reinvented. If innovation is the big answer you seek, Kao asked, what is the question? Doing the work of design thinking (user centric, using tacit knowledge, prototyping, etc.), organizations can tap into the reservoir of design depth needed to bring innovation from dream to reality.

And finally, digital. Digital with a capital “D.”

He asked the audience to remember 1998: No mobile phones. No social networks. No digital music. (Yes, but let’s remember, there WAS a whole lot of commercial Internet hype).

But his point was well taken. This is no longer your mom and dads’ innovation. H.G. Well’s “world brain” is coming to reality, and as we increase the nodes of participation in the global brain, we increase the interaction between our brain cells.

The higher the ratio of brain to body cells…well, that’s why we humans are at the top of the food chain, and this syndrome Kao referred to as “encephalization.”

Innovation will no longer be just about better, faster, cheaper, or incremental improvements. It will be about major disruption, and the ability of organizations to adapt and embrace that disruption and turn it into an enhanced capability to innovate.

And that, Kao concluded, comes about as the by-product of effective leadership.

Written by turbotodd

November 11, 2010 at 1:13 pm

IBM Industry Summit: IBM Video Analytics For Smarter Government

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As mentioned in my earlier post, I’ve been attempting to mix things up a bit, and lo and behold, as I walked around the Industry Solutions Expo here at the IBM Industry Summit in Barcelona, I had the opportunity to speak with Hans Kahler about how IBM is applying smart video analytics in the public sector, bolstering public safety and learning all sorts of things about video “events.”

Imagine this: A single security camera in a big city like New York or Chicago can capture upwards of 50,000 events, per day (car passing by, pedestrian walking by, etc.). How to make sense out of it all and separate the unimportant “events” from the critical ones?

Watch the video and find out!

Written by turbotodd

November 11, 2010 at 12:32 pm

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